My mist system is not giving me the results I want. I had an infestation of fly larvae in it that started a few years back and slowly built to the point where I had to deal with it. I tried a few things to no effect so I decided that since the sand was pretty mucky anyway, I’d dig it all out and replace it.
A year on and the flies are as happy to live in this sand as the last lot and I have a moss/liverwort problem that the old sand never had. I’ve gone backwards. I’m using it less these days, it was time to consider an alternative. Fortunately, I had a birthday coming up.
What we settled on was a Vitopod propagator. I ordered it Monday evening and it arrived Wednesday lunchtime. Today I assembled it and gave it a test run. So far all is well; it seems well made and appears to operate as described. How well it will work at rooting cuttings and starting seeds remains to be seen.
A mist system is not something that most amateur gardeners would bother with. The cost and complexity wouldn’t be worth it unless you were wanting to propagate quite large numbers of less easy plants. With me it was Camellias, which I foresaw myself wanting to propagate in significant numbers for a number of years. It is only applicable to cuttings and I had a section at one end screened off so I could germinate seeds on the heated bed without them being misted.
The principle with mist is that the cuttings have cool tops, to reduce transpiration, and warm bottoms, to promote fast rooting. You can put quite large softwood cuttings under mist, leaving plenty of leaf on them and the mist will keep them from wilting so that when they root you already have a reasonable sized plant. That’s the theory.
Plenty of growers use mist but plenty of others don’t. The right grade of polythene as a low tunnel can be every bit as effective with a wide range of subjects. Thus my new Vitopod, effectively a closed case with bottom heat, has the potential to be an effective tool. I suspect the greatest risk will be it overheating because of inadequate shading from summer sun and I will try to get the measure of that before I put anything in it.
The temperature is controlled by plugging the propagator base into mains electricity via a thermostat, the sensor for which is attached to a cable that you run through one of the vents and position inside the propagator. You are told not to put the sensor into the compost or to lay it on the heated floor of the unit. I currently have it dangling an inch or two above the floor. It is therefore measuring the air temperature not the compost temperature, which is what I would have preferred. I don’t know how hot the base gets but if the air above the trays of cuttings has to be heated through the trays, how hot are the trays going to get? Some experimentation is going to be needed.
There’s a part of me that is sad to be giving up on what was almost a professional type of setup in favour of something clearly aimed at hobbyists, but it’s not about the kit, it’s about the results. At the least it should be much easier to keep clean and free of pest and disease problems.
At some point I’ll remove the mist system and pave the whole glasshouse floor. Might even get some more staging. It’ll be beautiful.